Awash on a Southern Shore
Friday, January 27, 2012
More random black and white photos this week, beginning with a picture of me several years ago by Medina Lake (now three-quarters dry because of drought) in San Antonio, then pictures from a drive around East Texas, through the woods then returning through Galveston and along the coast mostly blown away by a hurricane about a month after I passed through, then a picture of my son four or five years ago, then back to San Antonio countryside,then a big jump to New Mexico, ending with another picture of me atop Mesa Verde from a couple of years after the picture at Lake Medina. All this sequential from my image file.
My poems this week, in addition to the usual great poets from my library, include my new poems from last week as I tried to reintroduce myself to poetry after thirty days of prose-writing and older poems about Corpus Christi on the Texas mid-coast where we lived for fifteen years.
Here's the line-up for the week.
Federico Garcia Lorca
Little Girl Drowned in the Well
Waltz in the Branches
Watching the Lexington Brought to Final Berth (Corpus Christi series)
Windsurfers (Corpus Christi series)
the woman weeps
The Blank Abandon of Beds
Baby Stuff (Corpus Christi series)
W. S. Merwin
Song of Man Chipping an Arrowhead
the moon rising (Corpus Christi series)
In the House of Orphans
Who’d Want to be a Man
lying with my lover on the beach at midnight (Corpus Christi series)
Lorna Dee Cervantes
Cannery Town in August
guardian of my better angels
The Train of the Wounded
The Apartment on Santa Fe (Corpus Christi series)
This is a Poem for the Dead
W. S. Merwin
Harbor Bridge (Corpus Christi series)
Ignorance of the Law is no Excuse
When Winter Finally Came (Corpus Christi series)
My first reaction to writing poetry was a sense of freedom, poetry, at least the way I write it, being much less constrained than the mini-stories I had been writing.
like birds flying
where they please
on a warm summer breeze
like a stray dog
in green Missouri hills
like a fiddler
at the Saturday dance
that’s how free
My first two library poems this week are by Federico Garcia Lorca .
Born in 1898 in the south of Spain and shot in 1936 by anti-communists forces during the Spanish Civil War, the poet, dramatist and theatre director, one of too many artists murdered by the forces of oppression around the world.
The poems are from his book Poet in New York, published in its 8th edition by Noonday Press in 1995. It is a bilingual book, Lorca's original Spanish and translation by Greg Simon on facing pages.
There's a wonderful poetic tribute to Walt Whitman in the book, as much as I'd like to use it, it is much too long for here. But I recommend it to anyone who has access to the book if they have any doubt about the influence Whitman,America's greatest poet, has had on the poetry of the western world.
Actually, as great as they all are, it's hard to find many poems in the book that aren't too long to use here.
Little Girl Drowned in the Well
(Granada and Newburgh)
Statues suffer the darkness of coffins with their eyes,
but they suffer even more from water that never reaches
that never reaches the sea.
The townspeople ran along the battlements breaking
the fishermen's poles.
Quickly! To the edge! Hurry! And the tender stars
sounded like bullfrogs.
...that never reaches the sea.
At peace in my memory, heavenly body, circumference,
you cry on the shores of a horse's eye
...that never reaches the sea.
But no one in the darkness will be able to give you
only sharpened limits: diamond's future.
...that never reaches the sea.
While the people look for pillowed silences,
you pulsate forever, defined by your ring.
...that never reaches the sea.
You will always be ahead of some waves that accept
the combat of roots and anticipated solitude.
...that never reaches the sea.
They're coming up the ramps! Arise from the water!
Every point of light will toss you a chain!
...that never reaches the sea.
No, that never reaches the sea. Water fixed in one place,
breathing with all its unstrung violins
on the musicale scale of wounds and deserted buildings.
Water that never reaches the sea!
Waltz in the Branches
One leaf fell,
and a third.
A fish swam on the moon.
The water sleeps for only an hour,
but the white sea sleeps for a hundred.
There is a dead lady
in the branch of the tree.
The nun in her habit
sand inside the pomegranate.
This girl of mine
reached the pinecone from the pine.
And the pine went along
to look for the tiny feather's song.
But the wounded nightingale cried
throughout the countryside.
And I did too,
because the first leaf fell,
and a third.
And a head of crystal
and a paper fiddle.
And the snow could make its way in the world,
if the snow slept for a month,
and the branches wrestled with the world,
one by one,
two by two
and three by three.
Oh, the hard ivory of invisible flesh!
Oh, the dawn's abyss with no ants!
With the swish of trees,
with the sighs of the ladies,
with the croaking frogs
and the honey's yellow glug.
A shadow's torso will arrive,
wearing a laurel crown.
For the wind, the sky will
be hard as a wall
and all the downed branches
will leave as they dance.
One by one
around the moon,
two by two
around the sun,
and three by three
let the pieces of ivory sleep.
I was born and raised in South Texas, about as far south as you can get in the United States. The Rio Grande River, the border with Mexico, was about a 20 minute drive south of the house I grew up in and the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico about 45 minutes to the southeast.
Later, with my wife and son, I lived for fifteen years on the mid-gulf coast, about half way between Galveston and South Padre Island. We lived most of that time in Corpus Christi, our house about 10 blocks from Corpus Christi Bay and about 15 minutes from North Padre Island and Gulf beaches.
It is a fishing and tourist city, as well as an industrial city, with the greatest concentration of petroleum refineries on the gulf coast, using the Port of Corpus Christi to ship in crude oil from all over the world and ship out the various refined products mostly to off-shore customers.
The years we lived there were the best of my life, both professionally and personally.
I was near the cresting of a very busy career while there, and there wasn't any time for writing. It wasn't until nearly ten years later that I started to write again. But there was a lot of material for a writer in those years, material I began to use when I returned to writing.
I'm using some of those poems this week, beginning with this one, an account of the arrival of the aircraft Lexington being brought to dock along the city's shoreline as a tourist attraction. The poem was written early in 2000 and was published in The Green Tricycle later that year.
Watching the Lexington Brought to Final Berth
Though small for her class,
she dwarfed the tugs that surrounded her,
three to each side to keep her on course
and two astern to push her to her final berth
between the art museum and the state aquarium.
Stormy weather and the limited maneuverability
of her dependent condition made the narrow passage
at Port Aransas risky, so she had been held in the gulf
for several days, her last days in the open sea.
On this day, under a sky blown cloudless
by the strong winds that sweep the Texas coast,
thousands of people waited to greet her,
cheering her at first sight on the horizon,
wondering at her size as she drew closer.
She was massive, bigger than they had imagined,
like a city block of buildings painted navy gray,
afloat in the choppy bay, pushed through the waves
by tug boats that reached barely midway up her hull.
Delicately, she was turned by the tugs, then pushed
stern first into the sandy cradle made to hold her safe,
not breached, yet not at sea, alive and whole, she was resting,
resting, at last, off a quiet beach in Texas.
My next poems from my poetry library are by Daisy Zamora.
Zamora, born in 1950 in Managua, Nicaragua, was raised in a wealthy liberal and politically active family. She attended convent schools and studied at the Universidad Centroamericana in Nicaragua where she earned a degree in psychology. She earned a post graduate diploma from INCAE, a branch of Harvard University in Central America]. She also studied at the Academia Dante Alighieri and the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes.
She was involved in the fight against the Somoza dictatorship in the 1970s, and joined the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in 1973. She was exiled to Honduras, Panama and Costa Rica. During Nicaragua’s Sandinista Revolution, she was a combatant for the FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front), and became the voice and program director for clandestine Radio Sandino during the final 1979 Sandinista offensive. After the revolution was won, she was appointed vice minister of culture for the new government.
She is the author of several books widely read in Spanish and in English. She is also a translator of poetry and editor of anthologies. The poems I'm using this week are from her book Riverbed of Memory. It is a dual language book, the poet's original Spanish and translation to English by Barbara Paschke on facing pages. This Spanish/English edition was published by City Lights in 1992.
The suitcase full of baby clothes I kept with such
a little girl crossing the street in her
or a passing glance at a pregnant woman
waiting for a bus.
Any encounter / Spark / Unleashes
in this unprepared heart: dry fodder,
reduced to smokey ash, to
The afternoon when you called Maria Mercedes
I discovered in your voice the voice of your father
whom I never knew.
There was a moment
when you spoke with a voice that wasn't yours.
echo of another voice
that your older sister, Gladys,
or your mother (if she were living)
would have recognized immediately
No one knows where he came from.
in the morning he stretches in the sun,
or we watch his silhouette undulate
behind the opaque glass in the window.
Lonely like us:
"a couple stuck by the arrow..."
this charcoal cat
and an occasional rat.
We return to the place we were happy
accompanied by new friends:
seated face to face
you hand no longer seeks mine under the table.
In the shade
the tables where we once sat are empty.
Midday whitens the cocoplums in the highest branches
guayabas grow green among green leaves.
There's warmth between us,
we look like two old friends.
Tenderly, pregnant with sadness,
I look at the tables and chairs, so dead and alone.
It wasn't as easy to return to poems as I had thought it might be, requiring a different mind-set from the narrative discipline of prose.
getting back into
the daily poetry poppity-pop
frame of mind
requires a step back
from the maturity grind
time to put on
our play boots and
till the cows
your turn to do the milking
my turn to lick the
The next poems are by Alexander Shurbanov, from collection of his Frost-Flowers, selected and translated by Ludmilla G.Popova-Wightman and published by Ivy Press in 1992. It is a dual language book, Bulgarian and English translation on facing pages. (I learned something I didn't know - I've worked with Bulgarian speakers but never knew their language used the cyrillic alphabet, which I learned, and subsequently forgot, while studying Russian.)
I couldn't find current information about the poet that I wouldn't have to pay for. It's also complicated because there is apparently a person by the same name prominent in the film community who gets most of the Wikipedia entries.
I do have this, though, from the bio on the back cover of the book.
Shubanov, born in 1941,is a Bulgarian poet, literary critic, translator, and teacher. At the time of publication of his book, he was Chairman of the English Department at Sofia University. At that time, he had published five volumes of poetry and three books of essays and critical studies. He had also translated The Canterbury Tales, Paradise Lost, and a number of other contemporary poetry into Bulgarian.
How bravely we touch
from childhood on.
We stretch fearless fingers
toward dry shells
of clams and snails.
And this touch
fills our spirit
But how under the hard armor;
life - soft and wet -
We shudder instantly.
Our instinct casts us apart.
Flesh folds into itself.
And we observe ourselves
with fear and astonishment.
Within the safe world
of dead objects,
In the evening the sea pales
and falls silent,
frightened by something unknown
about to happen.
But soon the dark universe
bends a smiling face over the sea,
its hair gently shrouds it.
Calmed, the sea grows tranquil,
begins to darken and to murmur
which is nothing to fear.
by posting them
on our overcoats.
a sniff -
and the message is delivered.
Their raised tails
announce it all.
They never ask
we re their masters
but they use us as their postmen.
Everything else cats
can manager alone.
They wink behind our backs,
and don't think much of us.
of savage jaws
and heads judiciously disappearing
into hunched shoulders
to sport a swan's neck -
what a magnificent risk!
This is another Corpus Christi poem.
My office was downtown, within sight of the bay, and I often drove to work along the palm-divided street that bordered the bay. The poem is about a not unusual sight to see as I made my way to work.
This poem was also written and published in The Green Tricycle in 2000.
This windsurfers start early in the morning, just
as the rising sun comes boiling up from the bay.
You can see them off the bluff at Cole Park.
Their red and yellow and green sails
bob and bounce like fishing corks in the waves.
Behind the, the downtown skyline
rises up from Water Street and, in its shadow,
the marina, with masts jumping
in the same choppy tide that buffets the surfers.
You can see them in the orange light of the sun,
their bodies leaning horizontal to the water,
their backs and shoulders smashing
into the foam and froth of the tossing surf
as they pull on their sails,
hang onto their boards,
straining to harness the wind and tide
for a ninety second ride, seconds stretched
to last a day in the dry and wind-free world.
The next piece is by Gabriel Gomez, taken from his book The Outer Bands, published by the University of Notre Dame Press.
Gomez is a poet, playwright, and music journalist born and raised in El Paso, Texas. He received a B.A. in Creative Writing from the College of Santa Fe and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from St. Mary's College of California. He has taught English at the University of New Orleans, Tulane University, the College of Santa Fe, and the Institute of American Indian Arts.
This piece, though taken in small bites is fairly long. I've used it here before, but I like it very much so I'm using it again.
A Retablo, or lamina, is a Latin American devotional painting, especially a small popular or folk art one using iconography derived from traditional Catholic church.
The red scene begins with a swift sketch
A still life motivated from the instant flashing
Her hands warming in her pockets, re-balling tissue in a hard
rhythm. Circling a name for her sun disturbed shadow of conch
simplicity to an animated form spilling a ribbon of paths to the
spearing sorghum. A final dust lifting under and after the weight
of dew whispering the act of skin. Her name, I once recalled,
meant unraveling in Spanish.
As with all parables there are four base colors
I learned that there is always food at th;e reckoning of a tragedy.
Paint eagerly represents a woman as still life, diffused through
hundreds of movements, by her painter. Put trees through a
window behind her; offer a texture circling of blue shadow stir-
ring in pools of tea colored sand. Her name will come in a lipped
octave slope saving the impulse to point at what you mean
you'll want to say.
the hands were once attached to the arms
the face and legs have dropped to the imagination
the legs became deeper with marble
when rising toward the pinched waist
I learned to smoke behind the San Fernando church. We smoked
faros that looked like joints, so we imagined that too. The church
was named after a saint that had suffered patiently through a com-
plicated and unreasonable death.
crops of lavender, shin height,plump with aroma
smeared the tillage with a tidy summary
the soil re-occurred for miles under the fashioned horizon
losing its light to the opposite page
there is distance in the drowning color
similitude to the shifty ochre light marching heavily upon us
the ocean kept re-occurring on the beach in the form of a wave
There were several interesting horizons.
because, as children,we have thought of the sun as an onion
we now remember its cells lifting from the rosy sepulcher
spilling in a wave, a repetitive signal
enouncing it coming to pummel the ground
The ground re-occurred through everything.
people suffer towards the page
creatures pilot through a highway
their language is untranslatable
the road they carry is shaped
with a foreign math
the sunrise is a small child
the metaphor became easy to denounce
once it was known that there are no small
children depicted in heaven
the sun became an anterior math
and inconceivable exegesis
two objects clamor towards the specter
a woman squinting through the double sided mirror
a woman walking separately
diffused with so much water> then hardened into form
the series returned deep swallow of of sound and saliva
brown cardigan holding balls of tissue in their pockets
lifting and dropping
a pattern of gauzy shadows spilled from the giant red trees
the fragrant moment of thirst
a curious and particular hunger
you mean for me to say here
dew huddled on the stems of lilacs
like rock candy
a murder of crows dance like behemoth electrons
Humidity advanced thrillingly to her skin. The sharp gray sheets
of rain dissipating slowly over the walkways and the cloistered
verandas. Then an eventual puddle found your skin and lifted
small dimples on your arms and neck. Over the mass of earth is
the river, which all this traffic is under with an insoluble thirst
your back was neatly paragraphed by your blouse
I came around you like the movements of a flood
Doldrums jerked with fog
memory kept re-occurring
even from that place, where I had never been,
seemed natural to transplant every place
I'll call it media luna
my father kept semi precious rocks from Mexico in a lit cabinet
resurrected artifacts of other peoples lives
there was another American who had married a Mestiza woman
he raised and indefinite number of pigs with his wife
his-truck was dolphin blue
I attended a funeral last week, a sad affair for a man much too young.
the woman weeps
the woman weeps
the coffin lowered slowly into the open grave
women all around weep as well, women
who have set where the weeping woman sits
and women who someday will
the men watch, knowing
there is a box waiting for them
and a hole being dug
a little deeper
to contain it
Next, I have poems by Star Black. The poems are from the anthology, The KGB Bar Book of Poems, a collection of poems performed during the first three years of regular Monday night readings at New York's KGB Bar.
Black is codirector (with David Lehman) of the series. She was born in Colorado and raised in Hawaii and Washington D.C. She is a professional photographer and author of three books of poetry.
She read these poems, among others, at KGB, April 27th, 1998. The poems are from her book, Balefire, published by Painted Leaf Press in 1999.
The Sphinx blinks above the blond commotion
of dust, but her eyes disinterested stone , afloat, starkly.
She, too, will reach the jibbed rock's velocity,
in rising throb. She was created for her death -
defeat by mammal, the mammal's swollen feet.
She was created for her trick, its cleaving question.
Man and beast meet in the riddle, daunted, doomed.
She is monstrous on her thriving perch.
Her ears hurt: "Solve me or die, warrior of Thebes.
I am Nietzschean. I am destiny." In a matter of minutes,
she was gone, a simple Simon hurled toward stone,
a lioness exposed in emperor's clothes, easy,
until Nietzsche reversed the roles, and cleaving
armies attained the claw's perch: no more on-to-one.
The Blank Abandon of Birds
Esperance! The twinge of moonlight in outer space,
its circulating tea cups of planets, the floury face
no long inscrutable in a half-frown but full and
voluble, agape. We are about to land upon a nostril.
There are no hulas here, simply dissolving patter
on silver silt in gravity's void, our heads abubble
with the merest molecules aswirl within. Our Velcro
fingers web and clench, we hover upon the lonely
homestead, its unembarrassed crud silhouette,
its entombing gradients. See the silt's dissolution
of nationalities, how ever booted imprint fits,
how clean this map is, without Clio's grievances.
Approximate and unfulfilled, a devilish nymph
in the underworld seeks huge black swam for fiery
twills in cranium's caverns, gray-matter indifference
preferred, although will take sensitivity, as well,
if inexperience in hell is available, for long-term
committed one-flight stand with ensuing consequences
such as bestial transformations and showering soot.
Nymph will attempt to run, as required, from
dark thwunking destiny. Nymph will not be easy
to acquire, though promised to succumb to aerial fury.
Various disguises necessary, drop chute appreciated.
Do not send photograph, please; visuals confusing,
elements of surprise essential, fact of advertisement
accidental. Pretend you don't read and never will.
This next poem, written in 1999, was published, also in The Green Tricycle, in 2000.
The poem recounts a life-changing event only days after the second time we moved to the city.
I remember the day,
late March, early spring,
sunshine and a sky scrubbed blue
by a brisk bay breeze.
Our families came from all directions,
arriving in a rush at the last minute,
everything unplanned and unexpected.
We had been called only the day before,
barely a week after that told us
to expect a wait of six months to a year.
then the phone call at mid-afternoon,
he'll be ready at noon tomorrow, they said,
and he'll come with only the diaper he wears.
Unprepared, we panicked, rushing to K-Mart,
pushing a squeaky cart from aisle to aisle.
"What does a baby need," we asked each other.
Bottles, a bottle-warmer, diapers, oh Lord...
What else? Clothes, bassinet, a stroller...
No, that's later. A car seat...
Oh Lord, oh Lord, what else?
We fell together in the middle
of the baby-stuff section,.
holding onto each other,
Here are three poems by W. S. Merwin from the May, 1972 issue of Poetry.
Song of a Man Chipping an Arrowhead
Little children you will all go
but the one you are hiding
If you could take the day by the hand
even now and say Come Father
calling it by your own name
it might rise in its blindness with all
its knuckles and curtain
and open the eyes it was born with
On the first day of Ruin
a crack appears running
then what do they know to do
they shout Thief Thief
and run after
like cracks converging across a wall
they strike at it
they pick it up by tails
they throw pieces into the air
where the pieces join hands
join feet run on
through the first day
while the wren sings and sings
I wrote this next Corpus Christi poem in 2002, then used it in 2005 in my first book, Seven Beats a Second
the moon rising
ripples of wind
ruffle bay waters
like a lover's hand
soothing soft tangles
in her beloved's hair
bright stars warm
in the cool
of the night
Next, here are three poems by Gregory Orr, from his book, City of Salt. The book was published by the University of Pittsbugh Press in 1995.
Orr, the author of numerous volumes of poetry as well as a memoir, was born in Albany, New York in 1947 and grew up in the rural Hudson Valley, and for a year, in a hospital in the hinterlands of Haiti. He received a BA degree from Antioch College, and an MFA from Columbia University.
He teaches at the University of Virginia, where he founded the MFA Program in Writing in 1975, and served from 1978 to 2003 as Poetry Editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review.
n the House of Orphans
Their father gone since dawn,
the four of them sit at breakfast.
The older smokes. They eat
their toast and jam. Soon
the school bus will take them
from this dark house; then,
in the afternoon
it will bring them back again.
Here are consoling pieties
like a tightly packed
of mortuary statues
through which you
must elbow a path.
Here are sparrows
on a porch
sorting sand from seed
with their beaks.
Here's the hour
that has forgotten
though the minnow
remembers teh stream.
Here are the roots
in one world
and the blossom
in the other.
Who'd Want to be a Man
With his heart
a black sack
in which a small
With his grief
like a knot
tied at birth,
balled up and hard.
With his rage
that smashes the ten
With his mind
like a tree on a cliff -
its roots, fists
With his longing
that's a dry well
and where is the rain?
Although I spent a good part of my life within a stone's throw of a beach, the typical summer beach scene has not, since I was about ten years old, appealed to me. My time for the beach is in the winter when you have it all to yourself, and, as in this poem, at night.
This is another poem published by The Green Tricycle, this one in 2001. The journal was very good to me when I first returned to writing in 1999.
lying with my lover on the beach at midnight
the beach was best at midnight,
when the daytrippers were at home
nursing sunburns, or in a bar
honky-tonk dancing in gritty flip-flops
the beach was best at midnight
when its beauty was ours alone,
when its sand gleamed in white moonlight
and stars spread across the gulf sky,
a blanket of light across the bed
of soft tropic night; when the surf,
braking against the shore in ordered rows,
was the only sound in the airy silence
the beach was best at midnight,
when we lay together on a sandy towel,
enveloped in the starlit whisper
of the rising, falling waves
Next, two poems by Lorna Dee Cervantes, from her book Emplumada, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 1981.
Cervantes, born in San Francisco in 1954, is an award-winning Native American (Chumash), feminist, activist poet who is considered one of the major Chicana poets of the past 40 years. She grew up in San Jose, speaking English exclusively. This was strictly enforced by her parents, who allowed only English to be spoken at home by her and her brother, hoping to avoid the racism that was occurring in her community at that time.
She was an associate professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder until 2007.
Cannery Town in August
All night it humps the air.
Speechless, the steam rises
from the cannery columns. I hear
the night bird rave about work
or lunch, or sing the swing shift
home. I listen, while bodyless
uniforms and spinach specked shoes
drift in monochrome down the dark
moon-possessed streets. Women
who smell of whiskey and tomatoes,
peach fuzz reddening their lips and eyes -
I imagine them not speaking , dumbed
buy the can's clamor and drop
to the trucks that wait, grunting
in their headlights below.
They spotlight those who walk
like a dream, with no one
waiting in the shadows
to palm them back to living.
My palm cupped her mouth
As I kissed her, the flesh
Of my hand between us.
After school, we'd cross
The fields of wild mustard
To the anthills, to the Queen
HIding in the dank recesses.
After school, my friend's throat
Ringed with daisies,so pale
And like me;I couldn't stand it -
All those bodies,moving
And army of soldiers who had it
In for me. I could taste
Our salt. They could smell it,
Thousands of them, defending
Their missals as we kicked in
The nests to find her, and recover
The soft white packets
Of her young.
I wrote this next, very sentimental, piece after reading a story in the newspaper.
guardian of my better angel
I read yesterday
that a famous soap opera actor
who I had never heard of - hardly unusual
because I seldom watch tv and never watch soap
operas - anyway, this famous soap opera actor
I never heard of killed himself
in a fit of grief
after having to put his dog down
people who have never bonded with a dog
will never understand this, people who have never experienced
the deep emotional and intellectual and spiritual ties
between man and such a faithful companion will think, what a stupid
man, this famous soap actor I never heard of
must have been
and I suppose if I were one of those emotional, spiritually, and intellectual
stunted through lack of the best friend every dog wants to be, then, i
suppose I might find it stupid as well
in fact, I admit it, even blessed as I am with my dear Reba, I think it’s stupid too
but I understand it
it reminds me of a poem the actor Jimmy Stewart once wrote and performed
on the Johnny Carson show many years ago
it was about his dog, recently deceased, a long time companion to both him and his wife,
and the loss of this dog, as he wrote it, was as deep and wrenching as would be the lose
of any of his human friends
it was beautiful, as beautiful and deep as any love poem ever written, misting my eyes as he read it,
a most rare event
I later bought a book of Jimmy Stewart’s poetry that included this poem, which, as it turned out,
was the only good poem in the book
(though I admit the poem was not harmed in any way by Mr. Stewart’s reading)
it all reminds me of the faithful presence and bond I share with Reba, my dog, the gentlest
and most loving of all the creatures that roam our earth - very old, deaf,
arthritic and mostly blind, yet eager to please,
to be close, to comfort and sustain my low moments and
celebrate with me the times when they are good
if I were writing this at home, she would be lying beside me now,
yet intent on ever key stroke,
her ears twitching
with every swish of my hand
as I move my mouse,
rising to gently lay her gray bewhiskered muzzle on my leg, brown eyes,
cloudy now, but still deep as she engages my own eyes
if she senses i am troubled
(and she senses everything that passes through my mind, reads my mind and, if her
joints allow, be were ever I think of going before I get there)
she is the angel of my better nature
and I know someday, even someday soon,
she will not be beside me
and it may be I who, like the famous soap opera actor I never heard of,
has to deliver her to her inevitable end
and, though I will not kill myself or even write a poem as touching
as Jimmy Stewarts, I know a part of me will be hollowed with loss as I am left,
wandering in the shadow of a secret despair,
some part of me lost without her, my better nature's gentle guardian
The next poem is by Miguel Hernandez and it's taken from the anthology, Introduction to Spanish Poetry, one of a dual-language series published by Dover Publications in 1965.
Hernandez was born in 1910 and died in 1942 from consumption and lack of proper care in a prison where he had been confined since the end of the Spanish Civil War. Born poor, then self-educated, he became a leading poet of the revolution.
The original Spanish is included in the book, with English translation of the facing page. No translators are credited.
The Train of the Wounded
Silence shipwrecked in the silence
of the mouths closed at night.
It does not cease to be silent or to traverse it.
It speaks the drowned language of the dead.
It opens roads of deep cotton,
gags the wheels of the watchers,
stops the voice of the ocean, of the dove:
it stirs with emotion the night of dreams.
The rainy train of flowing blood,
the fragile train of the bleeding,
the silent, painful, pallid train,
the hushed train of suffering.
The Train of the mounting mortal pallor:
the pallor coating the heads,
the cry of pain, the voice, the heart, the ground,
the hearts of the badly wounded.
They are spilling out legs, arms, eyes -
they are spilling out fragments all over the train.
They pass, leaving a wake of bitterness,
a second Milky Way of starry limbs.
A hoarse, faltering, reddened train:
a coal is dying, the smoke sight,
and the engine sighs like a mother
and pushes forward like a long dejection.
This long mother would like to stop
in a tunnel and lie down to sob.
There are no stations to stop at,
except in the hospital or the heart.
To live, a fragment is enough:
a man can squeeze into a corner of flesh.
A single finger, a single piece of wing
can support the total flight of the entire body.
Stop the dying train
that never ceases to cross the night.
and even teh horse remains unshod,
and sand gets into its hoofs and breath.
We first moved to Corpus Christi about a month before we were married (35 years ago next month, finding an older apartment within walking distance of the bay.
This poem, written in 2001, was published in The Horsethief's Journal, another publication good to me early on, in the summer of that year.
The Apartment on Santa Fe
The apartment on Santa Fe Street was our first home,
a second floor loft where we learned to live together,
entwined in the rhythms of bay tides and lunar cycles.
We could see the bay from out bedroom window,
beyond the white oleanders that lined the street and
across a grassy swale that ran full with rainwater
during the squalls that cross the coast on summer evenings,
when the stored heat of the coastal plain rises up
to meet the dripping clouds of cool gulf air.
We could watch the storms as the pushed across the bay,
rows of whitecaps racing toward the shore, splashing
against the seawall, throwing salt water foam to the wind.
Drops of water as big as marbles would pelt the window
and pound the ground below us and the roof over our head,
while lightning split the clouds and thunder shook the floor.
Then, as quickly as they came, the storms would pass
and all would be quiet and still. Birds would preen,
shake their feathers and sing again.
and a rainbow would form, stretching across the crescent bay
like a colored ribbon around the end of the day.
The next poem by Michael Ryan. It was taken from his collection New and Selected Poems published by Houghton Mifflin in 2004.
Ryan, born in St. Louis in 1946, has been teaching creative writing and literature at University of California, Irvine since 1990.
He taught previously at the University of Iowa, Princeton University, the University of Virginia, and in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. He is also a contributing editor at The Alaska Quarterly Review.
He has written four books of poems, an autobiography, a memoir, and a collection of essays about poetry and writing.
This is a Poem for the Dead
fathers: naked, you stand for their big faces,
mouths stuffed flat, eyes weighted, your miserable dick
sticking out like a nose. Dressed, you're more of
a mother making dinner: those old dirt bags.
the lungs , sway inside your chest like tits
in a housedress. Perhaps you're frying liver
that shrinks like your father getting older.
You still smell him breathing all over
your skin. He drank himself to death.
Now each woman you meet is a giant.
You'd crawl up their legs and never come down.
Even when you think you're big enough
to touch them, his voice flies from inside
your throat and "I love you" comes out
a drunk whimper. All you can do
is breathe louder. You're speaking
out of his mouth. Finally you admit
you know nothing about sex
and drown the urge slowly
like a fat bird in oil.
Still,those wings inside you.
At the hot stove all day you find yourself
rising, the kids wrapping themselves
around your legs oh it's sexual
this nourishing food for the family
you father stumbling through the door
calling you Honey I'm home.
Winter enters its last phase and we haven't seen much of it yet.
just a trip and a fall
and no winter yet
oh, we’ve had some chilly nights all right
and one or two almost-cold days.
but of the sharp cut of winter
we’ve seen no sign
the leaves let loose their hold
on the branches of drought-burnt trees,
but it was habit only, their sap fooled by the genetic history
of their kind into believing that, the required number of moon-cycles being complete,
it was time to head for the warm moist of their below-ground roots
saps to history
unnoticed by them, the refusal of mountain frost to leave its crested home
for the lower regions where trees wait, naked, bare branches like lovers’ arms
extended - sap sleeping soft and warm at the root, all above unrequited
frost lying in snowy crags, lying in wait for an early spring budding
when well -slept sap begins to rise,
bringing early buds
then, at last, the canny, coldest, winter winds will pounce - nature
making the fool of nature
and us as well
Here are three more poems by W. S. Merwin, these from his own book, The Shadow of Sirius. The book was published in 2008 by Copper Canyon Press.
The moment at evening
when the pictures set sail from the walls
with their lights out
unmooring without hesitation or stars
they carry no questions
as the unseen sails
the beginning and the end
wing and wing
bear them out beyond
the faces each set in its instant
and beyond the landscape of other times
and the tables piled with fruit
just picked and with motionless
animals all together known
in the light as still lives
they sail on the sound of night
bearing with them the life
they have been trying to show
from dawn until dark
ONly humans believe
there is a word for goodbye
we have on in every language
one of the first words we learn
it is made out of greeting
but they are going away
the raised hand waving
the face the person the place
the animal the day
leaving the word behind
and what it was meant to say
When the moon has gone I fly on alone
into this night where I have never been
the eggshell of dark before and after
in its height I am older and younger
than all that I have come to and beheld
and carry still untouched across the cold
The main part of Corpus Christi is separated from its North Beach area by the Harbor Bridge, sufficiently high to allow passage of the largest tankers and freighters.
This poem also appeared in The Horsethief's Journal in 2001, in the same issue as the previous poem.
As you cross the high, arched crest
of Harbor Bridge before sundown,
the city is stretched before you
in lines of light flickering
through the humid air
of the dark Texas night.
On one side, the soft swells
of Corpus Christi Bay lie in darkness,
broken, in the distance
by the lights of Aransas Pass,
faintly shining, like ghosts
of shipwrecked Spanish sailors
buried with their golden ships
beneath the island's silver sands.
On the other side, chainlink fences
and bright security lights
dot the port like cages
of high intensity glare, reflecting
off the water and the dark hulls
berthed along the channel.
Alongside the port, refinery row hugs
the river's soft turns,
a glittering crown with thousands
of white lights that follow
the tangle of twisting pipes,
lights that climb the fiery stacks
reaching into the sky
with fingers of red and blue flame.
Straight ahead, the city unfolds
in a river of light,a luminous flow
pouring from the tops
of bayfront hotels,
through the downtown street,
along the crowded seawall,
across the marina and the quiet waters
of the protected inner bay,
then south,like gleaming bubbles
in a moving tide,
along the tree-lined curve
of the shoreline's crescent arc.
Streetlights, porch lights
and the moving lights of cars,
drifting home on suburban streets,
are spread across the black horizon
like fallen stars.
The blue lights of Padre Island Drive,
glowing like fine gulf pearls
strewn in a line through the city,
across Oso Bay and into the distance,
and end on the far edge of sight, mixing,
by the whispering gulf surf,
with the yellow shine off a sub-tropic moon
as reflections on pale island sand.
The last poet from my library this week is John Ashbery. I have two poems from his book Where Shall I Wander, published by HarperCollins in 2005.
Ignorance of the Law is no Excuse
We were warned about spiders, and the occasional famine.
We drove downtown to see our neighbors. None of them were home.
We nestled in yards the municipality had created,
reminisced about other, different places -
but were they? Hadn't we known it all before?
In vineyards where the bee's hymn drowns the monotony,
we slept for peace, joining in the great run.
He came to me.
It was all as it had been,
except for the weight of the present,
that scuttled the pact we made with heaven.
In truth there was no cause for rejoicing,
nor need to turn around, either.
We were lost just by standing,
listening to the hum of wires overhead.
We mourned that meritocracy which, wildly vibrant,
had kept food on the table and milk in the glass.
In skid-row, slapdash style
we walked back to the original rock crystal he had become,
all concern all fears for us.
We went down gently
to the bottom-most step. There you can grieve and breathe,
rinse your possessions in the chilly spring.
Only beware the bears and wolves that frequent it
and the shadow that comes when you expect dawn.
Good luck! Best wishes! The best of Luck!
The very best! Godspeed! God bless you!
Peace be with you!
May your shadow never be less!
We can see through to the other side,
you see. It's your problem, we know,
but I can't help feeling a little envious.
What if darkness became unhinged right not?
Boomingly,swimmingly one remounts the current.
Here is where the shade was, the suggestion of flowers,
and peace, in another place.
Our competition is like tools of a certain order.
No one would have found them useful at first.
It wasn't until a real emergency arose, that someone
had the sense to recognize for what it was.
All hell didn't break loose, it was like a rising psalm
materializing like snow on an unseen mountain.
All that was underfoot was good, but lost.
I close with another Corpus Christi poem,this one about a historic cold spell that left ice chunks bumping into the seawall downtown.
This poem was also published in The Horsethief's Journal in 2001
When Winter Finally Came
When winter finally came,
it came hard,
like a great white bear
from the furtherest northern night.
Cruel and ravenous it came,
sweeping with cold ferocity
across the Leguna Madre, swirling
arctic mists over the fishing camps
and salt flats and shallow inlets
that run along the coast from
Matagorda Island to Mansfield Bay.
It brought snow that day to deep South Texas,
dusting cactus already set to bloom,
coating mesquite and yellow huisache,
covering the coastal prairie grasses.
Cattle left on their own to graze
turned their backs to the wind
and huddled close in the warmth
of their own steaming breath.
Snakes curled tighter in their winter dens
and hawks soared through the frigid air,
circling, circling, watching for pre
slowed by the unaccustomed cold.
In the city, salty foam splashed up
by the tide froze on seawall steps,
left a treacherous glaze of ice glistening
green in the muted light of the overcast day.
The people of the city, thin-blooded summer people
not suited for such an icy day, huddled like the cattle,
drinking coffee or hot chocolate,seeking warmth
in the companionship of an unusual day.
That's it. All work presented here remains the property of its creators. My stuff remains available, as long as you properly credit me and "Here and Now."
I'm allen itz, owner and producer of this blog, still, as always pushing my books. The latest news in that regard is that, according to my publisher, the books are or will be also available on Kobo and Copia, whatever they are.
The rest is as per always.
Available for Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony eBookstore and Appple ibookstore -
"Always to the Light"
"Goes Around, Comes Around"
"Pushing Clouds Against the Wind"
For those of a print-bent, available on Amazon
"Seven Beats a Second"